Redwoods: A Population Model

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Science  23 Apr 1971:
Vol. 172, Issue 3981, pp. 345-349
DOI: 10.1126/science.172.3981.345


The chief conclusion to be drawn from the results of this study is that redwoods are amazingly vigorous. The results support both the lumber companies and the conservationists. There is no question that old growth giant redwoods must be preserved. Only commercial greed could be a basis for refuting that stand. On the other hand, the lumber companies seem to be supported in their contention that redwoods can be farmed without driving them to extinction. The central issue revolves around the old trees. And here profit is the big factor.

Lumbering is an important industry in California, and redwood lumbering represents about 20 percent of the industry (l). Most of the big names in timber, such as Weyerhaeuser and Georgia-Pacific, are involved in logging the California redwood. At the current rate of logging, particularly of old growth stands, the Bank of America estimates that employment in Humboldt County will be down significantly by 1975 (4). It has been argued that tourism would more than compensate for the lower employment in logging. But not if the trees that the tourists come to see are gone. Why can't young and mature trees be harvested at a reasonable rate, the old trees saved, and both tourism and logging flourish?

The question posed earlier has been answered. Redwood growth and survival can be modeled, using matrix methods in a new context. Meaningful conclusions may be drawn. And the results are sufficiently tantalizing to inspire further research.